Sunday, February 28, 2016


The Chicago Teachers Union is a sister union of more than 32,000 members, consisting of teachers and paraprofessionals.
In 2012 they held a successful strike by joining with community supporters and parents and standing up for their students.
It was that commitment to community and students that led Jan to seek their help.
She reached out through Bill Shiebler and Erik Zachary of the AFT Community Organizing and Engagement department.

This Friday and Saturday, Jesse Sharkey, VP of CTU spent some time with us, first speaking with our staff and yesterday with our members.
He shared their experiences, what has worked, what has not worked, and we worked as a group on next steps.
It was great but to tell you everything would take too much space.
Maybe another time.

What I want to say is what the visit meant to me personally.

I picked Jesse up at the airport and brought him back and we also had time to talk on Friday night.
Over the past year I have been privileged to have some incredible conversations with unionist from all across the country.  People who have dedicated their lives to the movement, in most cases for much longer than I have been involved.
These conversations have taught me and inspired me.

Jesse and Karen Lewis, his president, challenged the sitting administration of the CTU in 2010.
He serves in the role as VP, as do I, of a union a few thousand members larger than ours.
He was kind enough to say to me, "we have the same job," although he is light years ahead of me in stature and ability.

On the way back to the airport I thanked him for coming and sharing with us.  I said it was like a shot in the arm to connect and hear his story, because although there are many differences and he has been at this much longer than I, their are similarities too.
He joined with Karen and their caucus and took a step that unfortunately does not happen a lot in large unions, they challenged the establishment, they won, and they believe in a member driven union, inclusive of the community they live in and serve.
He returned the compliment, saying that it is a boost to him to see others following in the same steps.

Like CTU we believe that our members and the community are one.  We must always be joined in our fights. 
Like CTU we believe that our members are tired of the assaults on American workers by corporations and the 1%, and are not only willing, they are demanding, that their leaders lead the fight back.
"Members are ready, are leaders?" is the question.
As Jesse put it, paraphrasing Field of Dreams,  "If you fight, they will come."
He left us with so much, both in inspiration and practical next steps.
He also left with a commitment to stay connected in this fight, in this same vision of what we can be, CTU and AFT CT.
And personally, he left me with yet another brother, who shares my hopes, my dreams, and yes, at times my frustrations, to call upon for support and guidance.
I thank Jessie and all the other labor activists who have made that same offer this past year.
We have much to do, but we do not do it alone.
Solidarity sisters and brothers.

No comments: